Carnival, in Brazil is a unique experience to not be missed out when traveling to Brazil. In fact, Carnival in Brazil is like an I phone, if you have never been to Carnival, you have never been to Carnival… In case you are planning to go, there are choices to me made! What are the best travel time, locations, costumes and other preparations to be taken? Read this short guide to make the best out of your Carnival time.
1. Choose the right timing!
This one should be easy? It is true, the official week of Carnival (Carnaval) is the highlight of the festivities. However, you might just have a few days and not a full week in Brazil. Further, taking flights at the beginning and at the end of Carnival can become quite expensive. Why not arriving too early or taking some days in a quiet beachtown after the heavy parties? Alternatively, think about the pre-carnival time. Though its not the main event, you will have plenty of opportunities and parties. Places like Rio de Janeiro will be less crowded, safer, less touristic and more authentic.
2. Choose between locations!
Brazil is enormous, and so are the opportunities to spend an amazing Carnival. You can decide between the vibrance of Rio de Janeiro, the effortless party crowd in São Paulo, traditional festivals in Orlinda, and a young and modern Carnival in Belo Horizonte.
My personal advice is to research the differences more closely and look at music, weather, and style – but also consider prices and safety. In Recife and Olinda (Pernambuco state), the music and dances connect with traditional frevo. Hence, both are very traditional locations and you will be able to understand the history of Brazil more profoundly. Pernambuco is also known for maracatus, which are groups that preserve folk dances and music of African-Brazilian origins.
Rio de Janeiro on the other hand is famous for its Samba schools and the yearly competition. A ticket to this main party is costly but attracts many toruists from all over the world. Most young people tend to go to the different blocos in the street and dance to the Samba rhythms and Baile Funk parties for free.
Recently, also Belo Horizonte has gained a lot of popularity. The Carnival in the state of Belo Horizonte only became a big thing a few years ago, but since then it is growing every year. The blocos are mostly organized by the young generation (Plus: LGQBT-friendly), who aim to preserve the culture and history of Carnival and include traditional music and rhythms.
Not sure yet where to go? Find a full guide here.
3. Understand what a bloco is
The Carnaval blocos or blocos de rua are the street bands and artists of every Carnival. The bands are performing in specific locations. The “street carnival” is free to go and accessible for everyone. Most bands move from one place to another. In Rio de Janeiro, the bloco Boi Tolo is so fast, you have to run in order to keep up with the pace. The blocos happen during a period of about one month, as they begin to practice before Carnival. Hence, if you do not have time to join the main week, a visit to Brazil before Carnival pays off as well.
Most importantly, you will have to do your research right before the event. With up to 15 blocos happening on the same day in big cities like Rio de Janeiro, you should decide which party you are longing for in advance. A few weeks before the festivities begin, you will find excessive lists offering you all the necessary information. So, stay updated to not miss out on the bloco that might change your life!
4. Choose the right costume
As important as being in the right location, is being dressed suitable for Carnival. Carnival in Brazil is different from German or Dutch Carnival where most people imitate someone or something. In Brazil, costumes are most creative, colorful, and styled with a lot of makeup and glitter.
Absolute No-Go’s are culture tropes. Be careful to depict elements from indigenous communities, tribes, and ethnic groups. Be aware of transphobic and sexist costumes and please do no choose to dress up in stereotyping people, customs, or communities.
The best costumes in Carnival are creative, acquired from a local designer, or hand-made. It is totally worth it to arrive some days before the Carnival event starts to go shopping. Moreover, do not forget you are in Brazil and temperatures climb high during the day! Hence, the less you wear, the better!
5. Get in the right moves
The most important stimulant taken at Carnival is the music. The blocos will play traditional and modern songs, depending on their genre, style, and where you are. In order to dance along with the Brazilian crowd, you should listen to Samba, Forró, and modern songs in advance. I have collected a must-listen-to collection on Spotify with the best all-time songs from Brazil. Caralho!
6. What you’ll need in your handbag
First of all, you need a safe handbag where you can store your valuables double-safe. Pick-pocketing and theft are quite common during Carnival. Ensure you have either no valuables on you, or you place them well.
Furthermore, it is good to bring sunscreen, cash, necessary medication, blister plaster, some tissues and toiletries, disinfectant, and your ID (not your passport!).
Another tip: Wear solid footwork! And, before you go, have a good and filling vitamin-rich breakfast (café da manhã). It will pay off later that day!
7. Enjoy the best carnival of your life!
Carnival has this reputation of being the best time of the year for a reason. There is no event with such positive energy and an open-minded spirit. Brazilians, as well as visitors, can enjoy life, forget about the daily problems and have a good time together, instead of apart. Carnival is one of the reasons why I fell in love with Brazil exactly for those reasons. For me, Carnival is pure magic and could become a holiday you will never forget.